Ceremonial textile (pua)

Iban people

Not on view

This finely woven ceremonial textile comprises two similarly ikat patterned and dyed panels that feature graphically strong, expertly executed designs. These incorporate the regularity of repetition and symmetry as devices to create lively, animated patterns that anchor and define the overall design and enhance the stature of the piece. The interlocking of narrow lozenge-shaped motifs with vertical sections appear almost architectural, allowing for a fluid population of the interstices with unfurling tendrils of plant life and tree-like structures. A series of powerful spirit figures demarcate the edge of the design at one end of the piece, creating a potent border. The limbs of each figure are dizzyingly rendered into multiple forms, finished with curling tendril-like forms, with feet pointed downwards to either side of a forked tail. These are echoed to each side with alternating abstracted versions of each upright form, highlighted in red and black to each side. The designs in the center and in the paired patterned side stripes at both sides are created by black, white and red warp ikat. These areas are both flanked and separated by groups of stripes (of varying widths) in white, green-grey, deep "blood"-red.

The culture and spirituality of the Iban people is interwoven with the natural environment of Borneo, an island the Iban have inhabited for many generations. The genre of pua is the woven textile most readily associated with the Iban. The dyeing and preparation of textiles is highly ritualized in Iban society and the finished textiles–with their figurative motifs–are used to convey cultural and spiritual teachings. In this respect, both the process and the finished cloth are among the Iban’s most cherished cultural practices.

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